Ink Cartridges 101

The ink cartridge of an inkjet printer is a peripheral that makes printing possible. It is the vessel loaded into the printer that contains ink. Depending on the manufacturer, a cartridge may contain four to six ink tanks of different colors. Some ink cartridges are outfitted with print heads like those of HP or Hewlett Packard while others have it built into the printer. With this arrangement, users are assured of stunning prints because of the presence of a new print head with every replacement ink cartridge.

Types of Ink Cartridges

Single and Combined Ink Cartridges – There 2 common types of ink cartridges: Single and Combined units. Black inks are packaged as individual cartridges. The combined ink units are programmed in such a way that the printer will fail to operate once a single ink tank is depleted. This is common in the handling of monochrome print jobs, where the user must replace the entire ink cartridge unit. Combined ink cartridge units usually integrate the three basic colors of red, green and blue (RGB) or red, blue and yellow.

More tips and tricks to printer maintenance and how you can save on printing supplies from the Printer Encyclopedia.

Starter and High capacity Ink Cartridges – Like laser printers, inkjets are also supplied with starter ink cartridges out of the box. Starters contain only a percentage of the ink supplied with regular replacement cartridges. This allows users to immediately sample the printer’s performance and output quality right away. Page yield is defined by the print capacity of the ink cartridge (measured in number of pages) at the standard 5% page coverage. A high capacity ink cartridge contains more ink supply than standard yield cartridges and of course delivers more page yield.

OEM versus compatible ink cartridge

Third party manufacturers also produce their own line of ink cartridges. These consumables are sold at more affordable prices compared to their OEM counterparts, up to 50% the price tag of the latter. OEM ink cartridges are generally expensive and many printer users have turned to aftermarket products to support their print requirements. These consumables not only reduce printing costs but also deliver OEM standard quality. Moreover, the aftermarket offers users an array of options. Replacement inks are sold as compatible and remanufactured cartridges, or as refilling kits that are often distributed in bulk.

Many inkjet printer users are investing in the CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System) technology to process their print jobs. Unlike the traditional removable and replaceable ink cartridge, the CISS operates an external ink supply attached by tubes and tanks to the printer. Instead of replacing the cartridge, users refill the ink tank. The only catch to using the CISS is that it voids the printer’s warranty since it is not a regular OEM product or service.

Types of Ink

Apparently, inkjet printers are widely used for photography, scrap booking and other types of paper crafts. Choosing the right inkjet printer to suit your needs requires some first hand knowledge of the different types of inks used by ink-based printers.

There are 2 types of inks utilized by inkjet printers: Pigment and Dye-based Inks. Both types deliver impressive printouts depending on its application.

Pigment Ink – Most printer manufacturers, particularly Canon and Epson use pigment-based inks for their monochrome printers. This is also the ink type of choice by most photographers. Pigment based inks are formulated from solid, opaque particles and are best known to resist UV effects that is responsible for color fading. It offers image longevity and stability, which is ideal for photography.

As this type of ink is made of crystalline particles, pigments however do not stick on paper fiber as much as dye-based inks do. Furthermore, pigment inks are more expensive than dye-based inks.

Dye-based Ink – The standard ink for most inkjet printers is the dye-based ink. Unlike pigment ink, its colorant dissolves in liquid and offers more color range for less the cost. Dye inks deliver realistic tones and are properly absorbed by paper. However, as dye ink is water soluble, exposure to liquid droplets can cause the image to bleed and ruin the printout.

MICR  Ink – Magnetic Ink Character recognition (MICR) is the technology commonly used in banks to print checks, vouchers, bank account number and bank code help them validate the mentioned items. This special type of printing also uses a specified type of ink. The MICR inkjet printer uses magnetic ink. Usually, they contain iron oxide making the ink sensitive to magnetic fields. Along with MICR characters, printouts now have encoded security features which cannot be easily tampered even if reprinted or forged. This helps banks detect counterfeits

3D Printer ink – 3D printers uses different kinds of materials for printing. The most common are Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, nylon, epoxy resins and powder materials. For small offices and hobbyist, ABS is the most common material used for 3D printing. It is cheap and comes in a form of filament which makes it easier to melt and extrude by the printer. Because of this, the printed images come out as thin, clear and durable. Powder materials on the other hand is the most developed method for 3D printing since any types of materials that can be turned into powder can be used. However, its cost and complex method is fit and commonly used by larger technology firms.


Printing Cost Per Page (CPP)

The use of inkjet printers in many industries is indispensable. And there are many types of inkjet models that serve different applications. Manufacturers vie to have the most functional and cost-efficient printer in the market.

OEM ink per se is expensive. There are replacement ink cartridges that fetch a higher price tag than the budget inkjet using the consumable. The truth is that the upfront cost of the printer is only a factor of total printing costs. What most users overlook is the cost of ink replacement. The cost efficiency of the printer widely depends on the frequency of use and the cost of the ink itself.

The parameters to consider in the reckoning of total printing cost include the following:

  • Page coverage of your usual print jobs
  • Regular volume of print jobs processed by the inkjet in a month
  • Frequency of use pertinent to its monthly duty cycle that determines the need for maintenance

This shouldn’t be much of a concern for users with minimal print jobs in between. But for organizations and businesses that turn out volume print jobs on a daily basis, the cost of cartridge replacements can be potentially overwhelming.

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Occasional printers spend an average of $0.20 to $1 per page on most print jobs. The level of page coverage and the print quality requirement of a print job dictate the printing cost per page – A4 text, A4, texts and images, and photo printing. Volume print jobs would therefore entail increased spending on ink cartridges. However, the use of third party consumables can considerably reduce printing expenses.

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